By Ruth Nerhaugen, contributor

Ornaments made by the Mayo Clinic’s official glassblower, music by a well-traveled pianist with ties to Vasa, and books by an internationally lauded children’s author from Red Wing will be among features of the Anderson Center’s 15th annual Holiday Celebration of the Arts.

The event will be from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 6 at Tower View, Highway 61 at Highway 19.

More than 45 local, regional and national artists will show and sell their works at the anniversary event. The array will include hand-knit Scandinavian sweaters, Russian folk art whistles, textiles from Peru, and a selection of pottery, paintings and photographs, jewelry, woodcarvings and sculptures.

Michael Nelson, who grew up in Vasa, will be among musicians performing during the afternoon in the restored barn.

The St. Paul native was 5 when his family moved there, and just 11 when he began taking piano lessons from Archie Swenson, a classically trained musician who was the organist at Vasa Lutheran Church.

Now a highly regarded pianist, entertainer, composer and recording artist who travels the country with his wife, Pam, Nelson is making his Holiday Celebration debut. He knows the Anderson Center’s grand piano well, however.

“One day I was looking for a place to practice” while traveling in the Red Wing area, he said. “I stopped by the Anderson Center and asked Robert (Hedin) if I could practice there. He said sure.”

Nelson returned to the Tower View piano a couple of times, and also has become a familiar face at Red Wing’s retirement communities including Deer Crest and Downtown Plaza - two places where he’ll be performing in December.

He studied music at Mankato State University and never returned to live in Vasa although “We still have the family farm there.” In 1999, he started Vasa Valley Music, in 2003 he created VVM Entertainment, and he now owns a marketing/consulting company.

At the holiday event Nelson will play a blend of holiday music and other favorites from the 1920s-1940s, Broadway and the classics. His CD will be available for purchase between 12:30 and 4 p.m.

Other special music will be Red Wing High School’s elite choral group, Ovation, at 1:30 p.m. in the barn; and pianist Lynn Dulak in the permanent art gallery. Lovin’ Spoonful drummer Mike Arturi will give demonstrations at the Universal Music Center.

Artists of all types will be spread throughout the campus, including the studios where resident artists will demonstrate glassblowing, printmaking, painting and “throwing” pots.

Visitors will be introduced to “scientific glassblowing” by Steven M. Anderson. During his training in New Jersey he concentrated on the scientific aspects of the craft.

Today he is the third glassblower in the history of Mayo Clinic at Rochester - a position dating back to the 1920s. He creates unique scientific apparatuses and plays a role in the advancement of research and medicine at Mayo.

During his personal time Anderson creates hand-blown art by lampworking, a technique of working clear and colored glasses in a hot flame. Using selective heating and blowing, he transforms glass into elegant artwork, including vases and ornaments, which will be featured at Tower View.

Poets and authors also will make guest appearances.

At 2:30 p.m. two of the state’s award-winning poets - Anderson Center Director Robert Hedin and Minnesota Poet Laureate Joyce Sutphen - will give readings and sign their books in the Tower View residence. Host is Scott King of Red Dragonfly Press, the Anderson Center’s press-in-residence.

Throughout the afternoon there will be signings by Fred Johnson, Red Wing native whose most recent book tells the updated story of the Sea Wing disaster on Lake Pepin, and Jacqueline West, local author whose children’s series, “The Books of Elsewhere,” has been published in a dozen languages.

The historic estate, which is on the National Register, will be open for self-guided tours. Visitors can climb the iconic water tower, tour the 1917 Georgian Revival house and explore the permanent art collection that includes works by Picasso, Dali, Warhol and other 20th century masters.

Lunch and a cash bar will be available in the café, and beer and wine will be sold in the barn loft.

Admission is $3 for adults, $1 for students and free for children under 10 and members. For more information, call 651-388-2009.

The Holiday Celebration is made possible in part through grants from the Jones Family Foundation, McKnight Foundation, Minnesota Cultural Heritage and Legacy Fund, Minnesota State Arts Board, Target Foundation and Xcel Energy.

If you go…

What: 15th Annual Holiday Celebration of the Arts

Who: Nearly 50 artists, writers and musicians

When: 11 a.m. to 5 pm. Dec. 6

Where: Anderson Center at Tower View

How much: $3 adults, $1 students 10 and up

More info: 651-388-2009 or